By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Reviewing the money raised in the recent filing period by the announced gubernatorial candidates is a portrait of contrasts reflecting the different philosophies between Democrats and Republicans.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu led the parade having raised $467,043 in the last six months, followed by Democratic candidates, state Sen. Dan Feltes with $369,703 and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky with $66,682.
The vast majority of the $900,000 raised by the three comes from New Hampshire.
However, who gave and how much is what separates Democrats from Republicans.
At least half of the money Sununu raised comes from businesses, either large corporations or small limited liability companies, although with different names, many have the same address, along with a $30,000 contribution from the Republican National Committee.
Feltes does have some business contributions, both from LLCs and larger companies, as well as several union political action committees — not surprisingly absent from Sununu’s contributors — but most of his contributions come from individuals, as do almost all of Volinsky’s monetary supporters.
New Hampshire law limits the money individuals and businesses may contribute to individual campaigns, but it is easily skirted when multiple family members and differently named LLCs owned by the same person or group of people contribute — usually the maximum amount — and has been going on since the legislature decided to limit the money spent on campaigns or limit what individuals and businesses could contribute. Political Action Committees and political parties may contribute either much higher amounts or have no limits on contributions.
New Hampshire election law rewards candidates who agree to spending limits and makes it more difficult to raise money if the candidate does not abide.
So, if a candidate running for governor does not agree to the $625,000 limit for the primary and another $625,000 for the general election, the amount an individual may contribute to a candidate drops from $5,000 per election to $1,000.
Of course, candidates may avoid the contribution limits by waiting until the last minute in the cycle to make their candidacy official and continue to take larger contributions.
It has been a long time since a serious candidate for governor, US Senate or Congress has agreed to the state’s spending limit.
A serious candidate agreeing to the limit in today’s environment would commit political suicide.
One of the constant issues over the years, is LLCs with different names, although associated with one owner or business making multiple contributions to a candidate.
The issue became most newsworthy when Democratic incumbent Gov. John Lynch faced Republican John Stephen in 2010. Many LLCs associated with Dunkin Donuts franchises across the Northeast contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Stephen’s campaign.
Democrats have not benefitted nearly as much as Republicans from this bundling of contributions, so they have tried to prohibit multiple contributions from different LLCs that are associated with one another.
The most recent attempt was this year as Feltes introduced a bill that passed the Senate and House, but was vetoed by Sununu.
A look at the governor’s contributions shows why he might have decided the change was a bad idea.
Several LLCs with different names but the same Portsmouth address associated with Seacoast developer Michael Kane contributed $35,000 to Sununu’s campaign.
Another group of LLCs with the same address associated with Manchester developers Brady Sullivan contributed $28,000 and $10,000 came from Dover Developer Chad Kageleiry through two different LLCs.
Also, three auto dealerships in Salem, Lebanon and Nashua beginning with the word Key contributed $18,000 and several LLCs based in Newburyport, Mass., contributed $14,000.
Total LLC contributions for Sununu were about $170,000.
Feltes had LLCs contributing to his campaign, but not to the extent Sununu did.
Five LLCs, mostly associated with real estate companies, contributed about $5,000 to Feltes’ campaign, including $1,000 from the real estate arm of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, a Concord law firm and lobbying group. The JP Irving LLC of Concord made five contribution to Feltes totalling $2,300.
Feltes has been endorsed by a number of labor organizations and that is reflected in his contributions. Eight labor organizations ranging from the Teamsters to the State Employees Association contributed a total of about $24,000.
The single largest labor contribution comes from the Teamsters who contributed a total of $12,500, while the iron workers contributed $250.
Volinsky received no contributions from LLCs or labor unions but did receive some from a several state law firms.
His contribution list is almost entirely individual donors including several who also contributed to Feltes like Stoneyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg.
There is a long way to go before the primaries in September, and the next reporting period will probably show greater involvement from out-of-state organizations and interest groups, which at this point are absent from the three candidates’ donor lists outside of the Republican National Committee checking in with $30,000 for Sununu. That may have been done to ensure he would have a higher total than Feltes for this reporting period.
It would not be good for a challenger to out-raise a popular incumbent governor, but Sununu did not need the boost as he raised about $100,000 more than Feltes including the RNC money.
Setting the Stage
In the coming months, the special interest money will begin to pour in to the governor’s race as gun rights groups, medical and insurance organizations, and national social activist groups make their voices known with the amount of dollars they spend.
The national party organizations will also be watching and ready to do their part. The criticism last election was that the Democratic Governors Association did not contribute to Molly Kelly’s gubernatorial campaign when it could have made a difference.
That is not likely to happen this time around as the stakes are too high for both parties.
If the Democrats cement their hold on the legislature, giving them the power to draw the political boundaries of the state, the Republicans may be looking at minority status for a few more elections.
And if Democrats want to accomplish their goals, they will need a different governor in the corner office.
This is not only going to be interesting at the state level. The federal level should be exciting as well with hotly contested races for the presidency, US Senate and Congress.
Interesting times indeed.
And it’s all fueled with campaign money that flows like water in the spring after the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the flood gates.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London. InDepthNH.org is New Hampshire’s only nonprofit, online news outlet dedicated to holding government accountable and giving voice to marginalized people, places and ideas.